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spring song
the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible
Hello there. Corinna Laughlin here with the Poem of the Week. This week, we’re reading “Spring Song” by Lucille Clifton. Jackie O’Ryan will read the poem, and then I’ll be back with some brief commentary.
Thank you, Jackie, and thank you to Eric Evans for the beautiful video that accompanied Jackie’s reading.
Lucille Clifton was born in 1936 and died in 2010.  She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and attended Howard University and later SUNY Fredonia. Her poetry was discovered by the great Langston Hughes in the late 1960s, and included in his famous 1970 anthology, The Poetry of the Negro. Clifton was widely recognized during her lifetime: she was the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, won the Ruth Lilly Award, the National Book Award, and was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her poetry is known for its depth and brevity. Peggy Rosenthal has written of Clifton’s work: “The first thing that strikes us about Lucille Clifton’s poetry is what is missing: capitalization, punctuation, long and plentiful lines. We see a poetry so pared down that its spaces take on substance, become a shaping presence as much as the words themselves.” In the words of another critic, Clifton writes “physically small poems with enormous and profound inner worlds.” Her poetry is known for its “moral quality,” its “looming humaneness” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lucille-clifton).
All of that is certainly true of “spring song.” This poem is just 45 words long, but it evokes a world. It’s spring and Clifton uses language that appeals to different senses: “green… breaking the ground”; a “sweet / smell,”; music that “has hold of the air”—sights, smells, sounds. Spring is an immersive experience! But these sensory experiences are more than merely physical. The name of Jesus leaps out at us again and again: four times in ten short lines. “the green of Jesus / is breaking the ground,” “the sweet / smell of delicious Jesus / is opening the house and / the dance of Jesus music / has hold of the air.” Where we anticipate hearing about new shoots pushing through the earth, or the smell of flowers or the music of songbirds, we get Jesus… Jesus… Jesus. The poem ends, “the world is turning / in the body of Jesus and / the future is possible.” Jesus is everywhere.
With remarkable brevity, this poem captures the hope of spring—which, for Christians (at least those living in the northern hemisphere!) is inextricably tied with the hope of Easter. As a medieval hymn has it, “Lo, the fair beauty of earth, from the death of the winter arising! Every good gift of the year now with its Savior returns.” Spring is more than a season: it is a reminder, a metaphor, a sign of the rising of Jesus. And the Resurrection of Jesus is not just an event, but a pervading, living reality, which fills everything, keeps the world turning, and, as Clifton says, makes the future possible.
Short poem, short commentary!  I want to let Lucille Clifton have the last word. Here, she shares some wonderful insights in video reflections she did for the Academy of American Poets.
Watch the videos here:
Lucille Clifton: What is poetry?
Lucille Clifton: Where ideas come from
Hear Lucille Clifton read “Spring Song”



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